Year in Review: 2021 with the Pandemic

How Americans adapted their behavior and attitudes (or didn't) living with the pandemic this past year.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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December 23- Below is a synopsis of an analysis done on the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index, examining how behavior and attitudes among the vaccinated and unvaccinated developed throughout the year. 

Detailed Findings:

Compared to the first half of the year, the vaccinated largely remain concerned about COVID, while the unvaccinated have become much less concerned about the virus, in part reflecting the changing population of who got the shot.

  • White unvaccinated Americans are much less concerned about COVID (36%) than white vaccinated people (75%).
  • But, Black Americans, regardless of vaccine status, remain concerned about the virus (78% among unvaccinated; 90% among the vaccinated). A similar pattern holds among Hispanics to a lesser extent (concern about COVID among unvaccinated 59%, among vaccinated 82%).
  • Similarly, most Democrats are concerned about COVID, while unvaccinated Republicans and independents are largely not concerned about the virus. Majorities of vaccinated Republicans and independents are concerned about the virus, but fewer are still concerned than Democrats—vaccinated or not.

Few unvaccinated white people wear masks often (36%). While majorities of Black (81%) and Hispanic (69%) unvaccinated people wear masks with the same frequency.

  • Majorities of vaccinated people are wearing masks frequently. Though, frequent mask use has fallen off among white vaccinated people more so than Black or Hispanic people between the first and second halves of 2021.
  • Most Democrats continue to wear a mask, while Republican and unvaccinated independent mask use has fallen in the last six months. Vaccinated independent mask use remains high.

Unvaccinated Americans who don't wear masks frequently are more likely to have tested positive for COVID than those who wear masks all the time.

  • Similarly, vaccinated people who only wear masks occasionally or never are more likely to have tested positive for COVID than those who wear masks frequently.

Throughout the year, vaccinated Americans have grown less likely to feel that they’ll be able to return to something like their pre-COVID life soon; at the same time, more unvaccinated Americans now feel pre-COVID life is within reach in the next six months.

  • Relatedly, few white unvaccinated Americans (25%) see returning to pre-COVID life as a large or moderate risk right now, while half of white vaccinated people do (49%). Even among the vaccinated, Black and Hispanic people who are unvaccinated are much more likely to see returning to pre-COVID life as a risk (69% and 65%, respectively) than white vaccinated people.
  • Most Democrats (69%) and independents (53%) see pre-COVID life as risky, while few Republicans do (35%). These numbers have been relatively stable throughout the year.

In the first half of 2021, the unvaccinated and vaccinated were equally likely to be working from home, with about one in three doing so. Now, while the vaccinated have continued working from home at roughly the same rate, the unvaccinated are much less likely to be doing so.

  • There are pronounced differences by race here; Black and Hispanic Americans, regardless of vaccine status, are equally likely to be working from home. Vaccine status among white people produces a significant difference in work from home status: 19% of unvaccinated white people are working from home while 30% of vaccinated white Americans are.
  • Compared to the beginning of the year, the unvaccinated in every party are now more likely to be working outside of the home.
  • Similarly, the vaccinated and unvaccinated are engaging in out-of-home behavior, like visiting friends or going out to eat, at roughly the same rate. Black Americans and Democrats are somewhat less likely to be doing so than white Americans and Republicans.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

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